Once again Colorado leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of their fans with their play this past week in the Diamond Head Classic Tournament. Basically, the tournament was one large roller coaster, there were some enjoyable moments, but in retrospect it disappointed and really wasn't worth such a long wait.
The DePaul Recap: The Buffs came out of the gate with a stampede, putting up 17 points in the first five minutes of the game, while holding DePaul to only four. Then, the Blue Demons switched to a zone and CU hit the panic button. For the next 15 minutes the Buffs let DePaul slowly creep back into the game thanks to a plethora of turnovers and missed box outs. DePaul closed out the half with a 29-19 run as CU clung to a 36-33 lead. Coming out of halftime, Askia Booker decided the game was too close and went on a one man run to put the Buffaloes up 48-37 with 15:48 remaining. Booker continued to lead the Buffs' run with several nice assists, including one behind the back dime to Wesley Gordon for a two handed flush. When all was said and done Colorado won 82-68.
The George Washington Recap: Initially both teams started the game quite stagnant. However after Askia Booker received two fouls within seconds of each other and sat down for the remainder of the half, Colorado's offense became nonexistent. With 9:47 left in the first half, George Washington went up 18-9, and all seemed lost. But, the Buffs decided to fight back. CU managed to claw their way to a 30-26 deficit by halftime. To begin the second half, Booker put on another one man show and took the Buffs on a 13-5 run. With 7:08 to play, the Buffs led 45-40. Then, I (thinking it was safe) stepped away for a moment to wrap a Christmas present. I came back to a GW dunk with 3:47 remaining. The Buffs now trailed 46-45. Booker gave the Buffs a 49-48 lead with 2:38 to play. After George Washington made all of their free throws and Josh Scott only went 1-2, the Buffs trailed 53-50 with 22 seconds left in the game. Colorado managed to choke away the game due to failed inbounds plays, and terrible coaching. The Buffs lost 53-50.
The Hawaii Recap: The Buffs started off the game strong until Hawaii heated up from deep. After four consecutive threes from Hawaii, the Buffs trailed 18-12 with 12:14 left to play. However, Josh Scott and Askia Booker decided to keep the Buffs in the game. Colorado managed to claw their way back to a 19-19 tie with 6:54 to play. Following a small run by Hawaii, the Buffs went on a small run of their own to take a 33-32 lead at halftime. For a good part of the second half, Hawaii and the Buffaloes went back and forth. But, after several Colorado turnovers and a few threes from Hawaii, the Buffs trailed 58-50 with 7:48 left to play. Then, Dustin Thomas sparked a 12-0 run with a charge followed up with his first three of the season. With 3:48 remaining, the Buffs now led 62-58. Colorado hung onto their lead until Xavier Johnson missed a heavily contested lay-up, and Hawaii managed to get a floater to drop to go up 67-66. Then, Askia Booker was stripped from behind dribbling down the court. Hawaii stuck two more free throws, and a dagger through the Buffs' heart. Colorado lost 69-66, letting third place slip away in the process.
What Went Right: Booker finally stepped into his role as a leader. At this point when he is on, he is the best player on the team and without him, the Buffs are just one big dysfunctional group. His shot selection was superb, taking high percentage shots, and rarely forcing any. Beside the awful turnover at the end of the Hawaii game, Booker had a very solid tournament. The Buffaloes also put solid pressure on three point shooters, holding DePaul and George Washington to 22.2% and 12.5%, respectively, from deep. Colorado came out with intensity each half, for the most part. If the Buffs can come out of the gate firing each half, CU will be able to create big leads or cut into deficits. Finally, it seems that Josh Scott broke out of his slump in the Hawaii game. In the first half of that game, he single handedly kept the Buffs in the game. Hopefully, Scott will be able to keep out of his slump in conference play.
What Went Wrong: INBOUNDS PLAYS, INBOUNDS PLAYS, AND INBOUNDS PLAYS! It's unacceptable that a D-1 team cannot inbounds the basketball. If coach Boyle wants, I can draw up a couple for him. Seriously, I've seen 4th Grade YMCA teams inbounds the ball better. Every member of the Buffs coaching staff should be embarrassed they cannot execute one of the most fundamental plays in basketball. If Colorado wants to win any close game this year, then they better learn how to inbound the basketball. Secondly, the play calling down the stretch of the George Washington game made me think we still had Jeff Bzdelik coaching instead of Tad Boyle. Making Askia Booker catch the ball and dribble around for eight seconds, create no other offensive movement, and have Booker get his shot blocked is an awful way to end the game. The Buffs could have at least set up a screen or a drive and dish or something. Next to dropkicking the ball into the stands, any other play would have been better than what CU ran. Next, the Buffs need to figure out how to beat a zone. Anytime Colorado faces a zone, their offense just disappears. It is apparent that Tad does not respect zone defense, because none of his players do. However, it's time for the Buffs to learn how to run an offense against a zone. If Colorado struggled against DePaul's zone, then they'll struggle with every other zone in the country. Lastly, the Buffs must learn how to play under pressure. Between the CSU, GW, and Hawaii game it's apparent the Buffaloes do not know what to do under pressure. All three of those games were decided by one possession, and Colorado failed to take advantage of their opportunities to win every time. The Buffs must watch film and figure out how to work under pressure. Learning how to execute under pressure comes with experience, but CU must learn quickly if they want to be successful in the Pac-12 this season.
All in all, a 1-2 performance in at the Diamond Head Classic was not what anybody expected from the Buffaloes. However, their performance will provide a quality learning opportunity. Hopefully, the coaches will take full advantage and make sure Colorado learns from their egregious mistakes. Still, a 7-5 record does not spell doom for CU. If the Buffs are streaking in March, we might be able to forget about their lackluster play in Hawaii.